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SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Forty Under 40
Dave St. Peter
Published November 10, 2003
The president of the Minnesota Twins is about to point to the obvious — the world championship that the Twins won in 1991— as the greatest achievement in a career that has taken him to heights he never envisioned.
Then Dave St. Peter catches himself.
"You'd think that's what it would be, but, you know, maybe it's not," said St. Peter, who joined the Twins out of college as manager of one of the team's retail stores. "I think even more rewarding would be our front office going to hell and back, from talks of contraction in November 2001 to defeating Oakland in the postseason last year.
"I don't know if people understand how special that was to our organization. That was probably the most remarkable time in my Twins career."
That off-season after the 2001 campaign threatened to tear the Twins organization to shreds. In a move that some had predicted, but few truly expected, MLB owners voted to contract two teams, one of which was presumed to be the Twins.
After the news of the vote was reported, St. Peter, former COO Kevin Catoor and general manager Terry Ryan led meetings with Twins employees, hoping to steady their nerves by allowing them to ask questions and vent their frustrations.
Most were bewildered. Many felt betrayed.
To maintain stability, the organization announced that if the franchise were shut down, it would pay employees who had stayed to the end a bonus of three months' salary on top of any severance package offered by MLB. It also went into crisis-control mode with its sponsors, sending letters to update them on the status of the franchise.
SBJ200311105401-01.gifThe Twins not only navigated that uncertainty without taking on water, but moved forward on all fronts. St. Peter said the franchise didn't lose any employees as a result of the contraction threat and sponsorship revenue increased. On the field, the Twins won their division for the first time since 1991 and beat the Oakland A's in the Division Series before losing to the Anaheim Angels in the League Championship Series.
"I don't know if people understand how special that was to our organization," St. Peter said. "To see the look on people's faces when we accomplished what we did after all that we'd been through, that's something that I'll never forget and will always treasure."
St. Peter says he never aspired to rise to president of the Twins, or even to make it to senior management with the club. His goal while studying at the University of North Dakota was to become a college sports information director, a gig that still sounds appealing to him.
An internship with the Minnesota North Stars brought St. Peter to the Twin Cities. That led to a job managing one of the Twins' retail stores. When the opportunity arose to put his public relations degree to work as the Twins' manager of communications, a job that meshed marketing with PR, St. Peter jumped at it.
His rise from there was steady. St. Peter was senior vice president of communications three years ago when then-president Jerry Bell tapped him to move beyond the PR realm and into the job as senior vice president of business affairs, a role in which he would be charged with maximizing revenue. He held that office until last November, when he succeeded Bell, who became president of the Twins' parent company.
St. Peter's communications background is rare among team presidents. He said he believes it has served him well.
"We operate in a fish bowl," he said. "I think that my public relations background comes in handy every day, and virtually every hour of every day. Every decision that we make, certainly we make them based on dollars and cents, but at the same time we have to understand that there's a reaction for all of our actions. I think it's beneficial for me to have my eye on how the public is going to react.
"I'm here because I was enamored with the idea of getting up in the morning and going to work every day around something that I love. I never take a day of it for granted. The thought of working in pro sports — for a day or a week, let alone 14 years — is still something that I'm in awe of."